Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dr's Getting Kickbacks Should This Be OK??


Drug and medical-device companies paid at least $3.5 billion in kickbacks to U.S. physicians during the final five months of last year, according to the most comprehensive accounting so far of the financial ties that some critics say have compromised medical care.
The figures come from a new federal government transparency initiative. The 2010 Affordable Care Act included a provision dubbed the Sunshine Act, which requires manufacturers of drugs and medical devices to disclose the payments they make to physicians and teaching hospitals each year for services such as consulting or research. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services compiled the records into a database posted online Tuesday, though the agency said that about 40% of the payment information won't identify the recipients because of data problems.

The push for greater transparency was driven by concerns that doctors' prescribing decisions are tainted by the hundreds of millions of dollars that the physicians collectively receive each year from companies. Supporters expect the transparency initiative to provide useful information to patients about the relationships their doctors have with industry and to curb the influence of payments on medical care.
"The financial relationships between doctors and drug companies and medical-device companies are a source of conflicts of interest," said Allan Coukell, director of the Pew Prescription Project, which has supported the Sunshine Act. "They have the potential to influence the care that patients get and so they're a matter of interest both to individual consumers and to policy makers."

Companies have defended their payments to physicians as necessary to conduct research and communicate how products should be used. "I welcome these disclosures," said John C. Lechleiter, chief executive of drug maker Eli Lilly& Co., which was mandated to report physician payments on its website as part of a 2009 settlement with the government over illegal-marketing allegations.

The payments and so-called transfers of value to an estimated 546,000 doctors and 1,360 teaching hospitals include such items as free meals that company sales representatives bring to physicians' offices, fees paid to doctors to speak about a company's drug to other doctors at restaurants, compensation for clinical trial research and consulting fees.
Some doctors have earned tens of thousands of dollars annually from drug companies by flying to various cities to give paid speeches, while some surgeons have received even larger amounts from medical-device makers, partly from royalties on products they helped develop.
Ed Silverman and Tom McGinty contributed to this article.

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